Kris Jenner Is the Momager & Matriarch We Love to Hate -- but Shouldn't

When we say we're talking about moms who inspire, you want to hear stories about the mothers who win Olympic medals and save lives as community watchdogs. We do too -- and we have and we will share these stories. They're important. But when we're talking about influential moms living and mothering today, as much as you don't want to hear it, we can't ignore Kris Jenner. You don't like her mothering. I get it. You don't like her designer shoes or her Botox or her two divorces. I get it, I get it, and I get it. But you cannot argue that she's not culturally or sociologically relevant, and as a woman redefining what motherhood looks like from behind our TVs and devices, she is someone to whom we must give credit for being one of the most profitable moms living today. 

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Kris is a matriarch in a society that still very much favors patriarchs, and she's raised five daughters (and a Rob) to be strong women who are very much in control of their own image and their own brands.

This is a woman who pulled 12 seasons of reality TV, three boutique stores, 135 million Twitter followers, countless fashion lines, fragrances, runway deals, apps, games, and a $300 million empire out of a broken and broke family.

You cannot convince me that's not impressive.

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The Kardashians are a dynasty, and if you don't believe that, you're not paying attention. They're titans of the Information Age in the same way that the Vanderbilts or the Rockefellers were titans during their times. It looks different now that social media is the currency we're playing with instead of oil or railroads, but Kris Jenner capitalized on the changing times the same way powerful American families did before her.

The Kardashians conquered the Internet and popular entertainment, and Kris Jenner is at their helm.

Happy Mother's Day!! Today is not about the party, the glamour, the guests (although you guys know I love a good party!) It's about celebrating motherhood and all the blessings that brings!!! I love nothing more in this world than being a mother and a grandmother. My amazing children and my beautiful grandbabies are my everything!! Being there through good and bad, life's most joyful moments and the most challenging, toughest times, always with unconditional love... that's what being a mother means to me. I love my kids to the moon and back!!!! Wishing all you amazing moms out there a very Happy Mother's Day!!!! Xo #mothersday #grateful #blessed #family #proudmama @robkardashian @kimkardashian @kourtneykardash @khloekardashian @kendalljenner @kyliejenner @letthelordbewithyou @lamarodom #kanyewest

A photo posted by @krisjenner on

It's easy to hate the Kardashians. They like plastic surgery and expensive clothes and petty drama. They like themselves. The idea that these things are unworthy, that vanity is wrong, and that choosing to read Vogue is somehow lesser than reading Vonnegut or Verlaine has been with us for years, and it can be hard to shake it off. 

Yes, the Kardashians are obnoxious. Yes, they are self-obsessed. They make mistakes. But they own it all, and that's why we should respect them. They're pioneers of the "love yourself" theme of third-wave feminism, and they're very much aware of the messages they're sending and the money they're making off of them.

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To not consider them as an emotionally complex and culturally aware portrait of America in 2016 is just lazy. They deserve more credit than that, but no one wants to self-reflect on their own values long enough to give it to them.

Take Kris, for example: Here is a mother who has guided her family through one father's death, another father's gender transition, struggles with addiction and alcohol dependency, divorce, custody battles, fertility issues, pregnancy, child rearing, capitalism, and depression. She taught her children that vulnerability was okay, even when that vulnerability was being projected to millions of people through omnipresent TV cameras. She taught them how to navigate love and marriage and motherhood, then turned those same lessons out to millions of semi-obsessed people watching from their couches.

Those lessons she taught brought her millions of dollars -- money that she poured back into her family and used to propel their brand and their business forward. She capitalized on her children's willingness to be open and direct, their eye for fashion and trends, and yes, their love of drama. She monetized motherhood. Wherever you stand on the ethics of it all, you have to admit that's badass.

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Kris a momager. She's the momager. Even after all this time, she still handles all the Kardashian-Jenner estates and businesses. But she's also their mom. She chose to let motherhood define her in complex and interesting ways, and if you'll listen, she wants to expand your understanding of what love and family look like.

You can list out all the morally questionable or downright bitchy things Kris Jenner has done, and I'm not going to sit here and disprove your claims. I'm not arguing that she's a stand-up, A+ human being, or that she's the mom we all want or want to be.

I'm arguing that she's important. I'm arguing that she's powerful and smart and strong and feminist as hell. I'm arguing that she loves the family she built, even though her love might look different than yours. That, at the very least, should make her a worthwhile inspiration. But I'm arguing that there's more that's inspiring about Kris Jenner, if you take the time to look.

 

Image via Digital Focus/Splash News

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